Koreans have expressed their discontent with the decision made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to allow the discharge of water from Japan’s defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, faced a cold reception during his visit to South Korea as local demonstrators criticized the watchdog’s decision.
During a meeting with lawmakers from South Korea’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party, Grossi was accused of being biased in favor of Japan and losing neutrality and objectivity. Party leader Woo Won-shik expressed regret that the IAEA made a conclusion without properly investigating the impact on neighboring nations. Another lawmaker called on the nuclear watchdog to revise its report, which stated that the release of the wastewater would only have a negligible impact on the people and the environment.
Grossi responded to the criticisms by stating that he understood Koreans’ concerns but stood by the agency’s findings. In a tweet, he pledged to take the concerns of the Korean people seriously and emphasized the importance of transparency and open dialogue.
While the South Korean government did not publicly dispute the report, many Koreans remained unconvinced. On Grossi’s arrival in Seoul, he was met with dozens of protesters chanting slogans against him and the wastewater discharge plan. China also joined in criticizing the plan, describing it as extremely irresponsible.
The need to discharge the water from the Fukushima plant arises from the aftermath of a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which flooded three reactors at the plant and caused a triple meltdown. Since then, the plant has been producing around 100 cubic meters of wastewater daily, and the storage reservoirs are running out of space.
The water from the Fukushima plant has undergone treatment to remove most of its radioactive elements, except for isotopes of radioactive hydrogen and carbon, known as tritium and carbon 14, which are challenging to separate. Japan asserts that the levels of these isotopes do not exceed international safety standards.
Fully discharging the wastewater is expected to take between 30 to 40 years to complete. However, Koreans and other neighboring nations remain concerned about the potential impact on the environment and public health. The IAEA’s decision to approve the discharge has intensified the debate and raised questions about the agency’s impartiality.
In conclusion, the IAEA’s approval of the wastewater discharge plan from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has sparked criticism and protests in South Korea. Koreans remain skeptical despite the agency’s reassurances, and neighboring countries like China have joined in expressing concern. The issue of the Fukushima plant’s wastewater remains contentious, and discussions about its potential consequences on the environment and public health continue.